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Sharlonda Buckman


Parent Resource Centers

726 Lothrop Rd.
Detroit, Michigan 48202
Investing in children, by way of helping parents become better advocates, is the driving force behind Sharlonda Buckman, CEO of Detroit Parent Network. She espouses that it's everyone’s job to ensure that every child is in a winning position.
Michigan Nightlight: What does being a leader mean to you?
Detroit Parent Network CEO Sharlonda Buckman: Being a leader means recognizing your personal responsibility to build leadership around you, so that you can ensure your organization is successful in meeting your mission. It's also about building the next generation of leaders to replace you, through mentorship, access, and opportunity. Being a leader means you are constantly cultivating leadership among those who will continue the work.
What is your dream for kids?
My dream for kids is that they are able to be kids because adults protect their childhood and their innocence as they grow and explore. Children are often forced to grow up far too quickly as a result of the circumstances they face.  Adults should make sure we do everything we can to ensure that all children get an opportunity to truly enjoy their childhood.
Children are often forced to grow up far too quickly as a result of the circumstances they face.

My dream is that our children reach their full potential because they know love, they are well-educated, and they believe in themselves because we believed and invested in them. This should be true for every child, regardless of what circumstances they are born into.
What is one concrete thing that could be done to improve the environment for social sector work in Michigan?
Nonprofit organizations must figure out the very core of their work, build upon their agency's greatest strengths, and collaborate with other institutions to support their clients and advance shared agendas for social change. This will help to ensure that organizations are focused on the work that is most aligned with their missions, and that clients are receiving the very best services.
Some of this has naturally happened as a result of the economic decline. Many nonprofits have had to tighten their belts, and while adjusting to new budget realities, many have focused their work. In light of declining grant budgets, funders have been pushing nonprofits to work together in building collective impact. Those agencies that have been able to successfully navigate this new environment are stronger than ever before. In many ways, the scarcity of resources has created new space for creativity.
How do you know you’re making progress?
At Detroit Parent Network, we know we are making progress through our parents, who tell us about the impact of our organization and who demonstrate their leadership through their activism and voice on behalf of children. We have seen parents who were previously largely uninvolved in their children's education becoming actively involved in the schools, including the more than 29,000 parents using the Parent Resource Centers. These Parent Resource Centers have become an important hub of parent engagement, and none of these existed before our work.
Furthermore, we know that we are making progress through our collective alignment with partner agencies on education issues, a synergy that until recent years did not exist. As we continue to do our work well, others seek our partnership to engage and mobilize parents. These collaborations help us get more traction on key issues impacting Detroit's children and families.
Most importantly, we know we are making progress as we see better conditions for our children. Through our Project Graduation program, we have successfully empowered parents to guide their children through on-time graduation from high school and to successful college entry. Through our partnership with Excellent Schools Detroit, parents have access to more information about schools than ever before, and as a result have been able to send their children to better schools. And through our parenting skills and leadership development classes, we have seen parents confident as they raise their voices in demanding more for their children.
What are you most proud of?
I am most recently proud of the more than 500 parents who marched on behalf of kids at the beginning of the school year, giving a visual demonstration of their concern, commitment, and love for their children. These parents made clear their expectation that their children would receive a high quality education this school year, regardless of whether it was a
...through our parenting skills and leadership development classes, we have seen parents confident as they raise their voices in demanding more for their children.
traditional public, public charter, or Education Achievement Authority school. It was as much a message to our children as it was to our policymakers that parents stand ready to defend their future.
I am also proud of Detroit Parent Network's recent acquisition of a permanent home, which accommodates our citywide Parent Resource and Training Center.  In addition to providing a space for parents to meet and connect, we have a computer lab where parents can learn to build their own skills, as well as access information to help their children. As our organization celebrates its 10-year history, this space provides a platform for an even more exciting future.
And I am personally proud of my own children, as well as the teens I have mentored over the years.
What perceptions, messages, historical influences create the most significant barriers to engaging Michigan citizens in helping vulnerable children?
The myth that helping our children is somebody else's job, when in fact it's all of our jobs to ensure that every child is in a winning position. This may begin with supporting the children in your family, but it must extend to every child across our community. No one is coming to save our kids; it is up to us. Our children are our legacy, and we must get back to that mindset that was once prominent in our community, where we all play a key role in every child's success.
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Program Profile


  • Detroit Parent Network
    To develop powerful parents (and primary caregivers) who are equipped to get the best education possible for their children.


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